Philippines police seized a Chinese fishing boat in the disputed South China Sea on Wednesday, an official told Reuters, the latest flare-up of tensions in the oil and gas-rich waters that are claimed wholly or in part by six Asian nations.
Chief Superintendent Niel Vargas of the Philippine National Police Maritime Group said a maritime police patrol apprehended a Chinese fishing boat around 7 a.m. on Tuesday off Half Moon Shoal.
The boat has 11 crew and police found about 500 turtles in the vessel, some of which were already dead, he said, adding that a Philippine boat with crew was also seized, and found to have 40 turtles on board. Several species of sea turtles are protected under Philippine law.
Maritime police are now towing the boats to Puerto Princesa town on the island of Palawan where appropriate charges will be filed against them, Vargas said.
The incident is bound to raise the ire of Beijing, which claims almost the entire South China Sea, rejecting rival claims from Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.
There are frequent tensions in the South China Sea between China and the other claimant nations, particularly Vietnam and the Philippines, both of which say Beijing has harassed their ships in the waters there.
Half Moon Shoal is within the Philippines' 200-mile exclusive economic zone and near to Second Thomas Shoal, where a small Philippines garrison is based much to China's displeasure.
A second Philippine source, a senior naval officer, said there were two Chinese boats but the other one escaped.
(By Manuel Mogato and Ben Blanchard; editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)